Playoff power rankings: Bruins the favorite, but who else can make a run?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

You bet the Stanley Cup playoffs will be a thrill a minute this spring.

Now that the chase for hockey’s holy grail kicks off, there are a few slam dunk calls to make, but plenty of intrigue will arrive over the next couple of months until a championship is won.

Who will be the last team standing is no sure thing, but here is our ranking of the 16 remaining clubs in the battle for the crown.

16. Seattle Kraken. An incredible season for the second-year franchise earned the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot, but the reward is facing the defending champion Colorado Avalanche. Seattle’s goaltending — both net minders have sub-.900 save percentages — will not withstand Colorado’s attack.

15. Florida Panthers. Last year’s regular season champs claimed the final playoff spot this season and are up against the juggernaut Boston Bruins to start. Both teams finished in the top five in scoring, but while Boston was tops, by far, in goals against with 174, the Panthers surrendered 272.

14. Winnipeg Jets. Of all the goalies who played 20 or more games, Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck was tied for fourth best with a .920 save percentage. His ability gives the Jets a chance against the Vegas Golden Knights.

13. Tampa Bay Lightning. The Cup champs of 2020 and ‘21 and finalists last season won only four of their final 12 regular-season games. They posted shutouts in three of those wins but surrendered 41 goals in the other games.

12. Los Angeles Kings. Not only do the Kings have injury concerns in Gabriel Vilardi, Kevin Fiala and Alexander Edler, but their special teams might be the difference against the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton’s league-best power play (32.4 percent) may have a field day against a Kings penalty kill ranked 24th (75.8 percent).

11. New York Islanders. Starting with the game Mathew Barzal was injured, early in the Feb. 18 clash with the Boston Bruins, the Islanders have been a miserable 6-for-57 on the power play. His return will be a huge boost and will help Bo Horvat be more productive.

10. Minnesota Wild. Kirill Kaprizov returned for a couple of games after missing 13 due to injury, which bodes well. Minnesota’s best hope for a run is for the likes of Matt Boldy, Frederick Gaudreau and Marcus Johansson to keep producing.

9. Carolina Hurricanes. The Metropolitan Division champs will be without Andrei Svechnikov regardless of how far they go, and that may not be a long journey. Without Svechnikov, the Hurricanes posted a 9-8-1 record and their power play sputtered at 5-for-46.

8. Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas has no clear-cut No. 1 goalie but likely will start with Laurent Brossoit, the backup in Winnipeg for three seasons. He posted a 7-0-3 record this season and took the reins down the stretch.

7. New Jersey Devils. Breakout seasons were all the rage for the Devils, who snapped a four-year playoff drought, led by Jack Hughes setting a franchise record with 99 points. Now to see how all their young, and lightning fast, stars fare against a more experienced Rangers squad.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs. Do the Maple Leafs win a playoff series for the first time since 2004? Doing it against the Lightning would put an exclamation on it. Toronto has lost eight consecutive series and has a shocking 0-10 mark in its last 10 potential clinching games.

5. Dallas Stars. Dallas is more than just its top line of Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski, who combined for 111 goals and 261 points. The Stars are the only team to finish in the top seven in goals for, goals against, power play and penalty kill.

4. New York Rangers. New York has a big-time attack with three potent lines, a much-improved power play since the addition of Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko and dynamic defenseman Adam Fox. The key down the stretch, though, was the play of goaltender Igor Shesterkin, who posted a 12-3-1 record with a 1.98 goals-against average and .934 save percentage since Feb. 26.

3. Edmonton Oilers. We all know about Edmonton’s vaunted offense, led by Connor McDavid (64 goals, 153 points) and Leon Draisaitl (52 goals, 128 points). But don’t look past the fact that after acquiring Mattias Ekholm at the trade deadline, the Oilers posted an 18-2-1 record thanks to a more solidified defense.

2. Colorado Avalanche. Last year’s defending champs are still dealing with injury issues but put down the hammer by finishing the season with a 16-2-1 record. Their fate may rest on how defenseman Cale Makar returns from injury.

1. Boston Bruins. With 65 wins and 135 points, the Bruins had a season for the ages. There are some slight injury concerns for starting goalie Linus Ullmark and top center Patrice Bergeron, but the Bruins closed out the season by winning 15 of 16 games, including their final eight outings.

–Field Level Media

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